Here are my thoughts on developments in the NHL this past week:
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I can’t think of a better buy-low candidate than Henrik Lundqvist. Sure, I’m a little worried about the Rangers as a whole because of the injuries to Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash, the latter’s being potentially more significant, but overall, I trust King Henrik’s proven track record. The idea that he’s suffering more than most due to the NHL’s new restrictions on pad sizes seems like an all-too-convenient explanation for his struggles. If this, combined with the minor injury he’s currently dealing with, are causing the world’s best goaltender to be trading at a discount in your league, I would not hesitate to try acquiring him.
I have said before that in leagues where penalty minutes are rewarded, I would much prefer to cobble together a balanced roster with a number of David Backes, Milan Lucic or Scott Hartnell types than to devote a roster spot to a pure enforcer. Having said that, this kind of strategy has its merits if you choose the right one-category contributor. If you do decide to employ this type of strategy, I would caution you not to attempt timing your insertion of said enforcer and instead suggest that you keep this player in your lineup perpetually. The accumulation of PIM by most enforcers does not follow a linear pattern and it’s virtually impossible to predict when the flow of the game will lead to an outburst. So if you happen to be rostering Chris Neil or Jared Boll and you’re not enamored with the production you have received so far, stick with the plan and wait for a big chunk of PIMs to be amassed.
No defenseman in hockey has registered more shots on goal than the 35, fired by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien. Given Buff’s track record, that part is not entirely surprising, but the fact he has yet to score a goal does make me a raise an eyebrow. I’m willing to bet this is mainly the product of bad luck and I have to assume Byfuglien’s value is being depressed by his goose egg, which makes him an excellent buy-low candidate in my eyes.
Sticking with underrated blueliners, San Jose’s Matt Irwin is a player who went undrafted in many fantasy leagues this year, but his numbers are forcing poolies to begin taking notice. I was shocked when I saw that his 30 shots on goal ranked third in the league among blueliners and although he has yet to bury any of his shots, his plus-5 rating and nine PIM have propped up his value anyway. He’s currently owned in 22 percent of Yahoo leagues, meaning there’s a good chance he’s a free agent in your group.
Psst. I’m whispering because I don’t want anyone around to hear what I’m about to say. If Jiri Tlusty is available in your league, go ahead and grab him as soon as possible. The man who set career bests by recording 23 goals and 38 points in 48 games last year playing alongside Eric Staal and Alexander Semin started out this season with different linemates and was held without a goal in his first eight contests. He was shifted back onto the Hurricanes’ top line prior to the team’s last game and he responded by potting a pair of goals against the Islanders Saturday. There’s no reason to think coach Kirk Muller won’t stick with what’s working for at least the next little while and I’m hoping that will be enough time for Tlusty to re-establish himself as a fixture alongside the team’s top two players. Buy before the window closes.
One of my favorite low cost targets entering the season was new member of the Senators Clarke MacArthur. Always an underappreciated player during his time in Toronto, the former Maple Leaf is filling a depth role in Ottawa, but has still managed to direct 25 shots on goal in nine games while accumulating five assists over that span, even though none of those shots has found the back of the net. He might only be average in terms of penalty minute accumulation, but he won’t be a drag on your team in that area either. It’s hard for me to recommend him in shallow formats, but in deeper leagues I would love to have him on my squad.
Bargain Bin Finds (Yahoo ownership percentage below 20 percent)
As usual, I have scoured the Yahoo ownership rates to uncover a few commodities I think have been inappropriately underrated.
Mikkel Boedker (17 percent) – Like his teammate Martin Hanzal, Boedker is criminally underrated. He has already recorded eight points in 10 games this year so I’m not sure what else he can do to garner widespread attention.
Travis Hamonic (6 percent) – Now that he has nearly 200 NHL games under his belt, we’re starting to realize Hamonic doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside, but he loves to shoot the puck and he racks up PIM. He’s useful in deeper formats.
Carl Hagelin (10 percent) – This one makes sense because Hagelin has yet to play a game this year due to a shoulder injury, but he’s making progress and should be back soon. Once he returns his ownership will rise well above its current rate.